Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kaitlin's Successful Steps for Obtaining a German Work Permit

Note from the TallyHo-Traveller: TallyHo introduces our first guest writer, relating her experiences with recent German governmental processes...Forward Ho!

From January to May 2012, I completed my student teaching internship in Berlin, Germany. As an American citizen, I was allowed to stay in the country for 90 days with my passport, but since I was staying longer than 90 days (and the school I was interning at wouldn’t let me begin until I had all of the documentation), I needed to obtain a residence permit.

Note: from what I found, the term “residence permit” is more or less synonymous with “residence visa” or just “visa”

The process is not too terribly difficult, especially if you have your employer working on it. Even if you have to go it alone, it’s not so bad. The following steps, gained from my experience of obtaining proper documentation needed to reside legally in Berlin, Germany for the 5 months I was there, are as follows:

Step 1: Obtain your work permit.
You must do this, even if you are participating in an unpaid internship. My employer (the school I was student teaching at) still had to have this permit, even though it stated that I was getting paid a monthly salary of €0.00. Your employer should file the paperwork to obtain this permit for you. You will generally need to submit the following to your employer so that they can file for the permit:

Verpflichtungserklärung (Formal Obligation) -- this form proves that you have monetary funds to support yourself during your stay

Immatrikulationsbescheinigung (Certificate of Enrollment) -- this form proves that you are enrolled in a higher education institution and requires the seal of your college/university, along with an authorized signature, both of which can be obtained from your university registrar’s office

Copy of your passport

Step 2: Find a place to live

Before you can continue with the rest of the visa process, you must find a place to live. It is a good idea to have a copy of the lease or a letter from your landlord stating that you do have a place of residence.

Step 3: Register at your local Bürgeramt

Before you venture to the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Authority), you have to register at your local registration office (Bürgeramt). You must fill out the Anmeldung form. Since it is printed only in German, it is best if you look it up on-line and translate it beforehand (or take a German translater along) if you do not know German. Your employer should be able to tell you which Bürgeramt you should register at.

Some websites say that this process takes hours, but that was not my experience. Here are some tips to help expedite the process:

Arrive early, about 15-20 minutes before the office opens

If you can’t arrive early, go during the hours when most people are at work

Try to avoid going right before holidays or the week between Christmas and New Year’s; everyone tries to get into the Bürgeramt before the holidays

Notes on the process:

When you walk in, walk up to the desk and ask for the Anmeldung. You will receive a number and will have to go sit in a waiting room. Keep an eye on the number board because it will tell you which room you must go to.

Important Note: You must return to the Bürgeramt at the end of your internship to deregister, or else your employer may be fined. The form you fill out in this case is called the Abmeldung. After you deregister, take a copy of the paper to your employer.

Step 4: Apply for (and obtain) your residence permit from the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Authority)

Note: You can apply for your residence permit before you get to Germany at your local German consulate, but if you are told that you are fine with just a work permit, this is not true—you MUST have a residence permit. A residence permit is NOT a work permit; these two are NOT synonymous!

Ultimately, it is best if you can make an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde. These appointments usually need to be booked on-line more than 2 months in advance. If you can’t make an appointment, show up VERY early, at least a couple of hours before the official opening for the day. When I was there, the first person in line showed up at 3:00 in the morning. If you are a student, you will get sent to building B, along with most everyone else who is waiting in the queue.

When you get into the building, find the correct floor and then head for the nearest silver box on the wall. This box gives you your number; after you obtain this, take a seat and wait for the number board to flash your number. Note: the silver boxes only give out a certain number of tickets. If you don’t get one initially, you can wait because sometimes more tickets are issued during the day; it depends on how fast everyone waiting is processed. If your number is not called, keep your ticket and it will be called the next day.

Things to bring:

€50 cash

Work permit

Visa application

Passport photo

Formal obligation

Proof of health insurance

Certificate of enrollment

Contract with employer

Passport—you need two blank pages in your passport for the visa

The proof of health insurance, formal obligation, certificate of enrolment, and contract with employer were not necessary when I applied for my residence permit, but it’s better to have the documents with and not need them, than to need them and not have them.

The first time your number appears on the board, you hand over all of your documentation, including your passport, to a man behind a counter. After this, you go back and sit in the waiting room. The second time your number appears on the board, you go into a room and talk to the visa agent. In my experience, the visa agent spoke excellent English, so if you don’t know German very well, don’t worry. You will be asked a few questions, such as “what do you plan to do after your visa expires?” and “how long do you need your visa for?” and then you will be given a plastic card. You will load your €50 onto this card via a machine that is found in one of the waiting room areas. Take the card back to the Visa agent and then he will print out your residence permit and stick it into your passport, sign, and stamp it.

Congratulations! You have completed the process and now have your German residence permit!

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